By Shaimaa Fayed and Michael Georgy CAIRO (Reuters) - A leading Egyptian social democrat fears the elite that thrived under former President Hosni Mubarak will once again dominate politics in elections promised by the army after it overthrew Islamist President Mohamed Mursi. The 2011 popular revolt against Mubarak raised hopes for an end to decades of corruption and nepotism, but political turmoil since then has dimmed aspirations for genuine democracy. Mohamed Abul Ghar, a physician who heads the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, is close to the army-backed interim prime minister and his deputy, who belong to the same party. Abul Ghar, 73, had hoped newly-formed liberal and leftist parties would set the most populous Arab state on a democratic, non-Islamist path after 30 years of Mubarak's one-man rule. Instead, they were trounced at the polls by the well-organized Muslim Brotherhood, which eventually propelled one of its leaders, Mohamed Mursi, to the presidency in June 2012. A year later, the army ousted Mursi after mass protests against his rule, installed a government and set a political roadmap it said would lead to free and fair elections. Abul Ghar, whose party won 23 of parliament's 508 seats in a poll conducted in late 2011 and early 2012, said Mubarak loyalists could return if a new constitution he is helping to draft stipulates that future elections be based on an individual candidacy system, not party lists or a hybrid of the two. "There is a push and direction to make it individual seats not proportional seats," said Abul Ghar, who was picked by the interim presidency to join a 50-member committee amending the Islamist-tinged constitution driven through under Mursi. In the 2011-2012 parliamentary vote, two-thirds of seats were elected by proportional representation, via party lists, while the remaining third went to individual candidates. "With individual seats, the people who will win probably will be Mubarak people in small areas, villages and certain districts. Very, very rich people will spend a lot money...so our chances will not be good," Abul Ghar said. SISI FOR PRESIDENT? A proportional list system would make it easier for small moderate parties to unite against Mubarak loyalists and for voters to base decisions "on an idea or opinion, not a person". Abul Ghar supported Mursi's removal by the army, but now worries about a return to the old political order. Sitting in his living room in the Cairo district of Dokki, Abul Ghar complains that Egyptians will have few options when they vote in presidential elections. Many want army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whose popularity swelled after he ousted Mursi, to run for president - even if that returns Egypt to the army-backed rule of the past. "If Sisi runs, probably I'm going to vote for him," Abul Ghar acknowledged, saying he would choose a military man over an Islamist after Mursi's rule in which he was accused of trying to usurp power and impose the Brotherhood's views on Egypt. Most demoralizing for Abul Ghar is what he calls a campaign by all sides, including the military and the Brotherhood, to squeeze out anyone seeking the political middle ground. "The moderates are being isolated more and more," said Abul Ghar, who was once among the throngs in Tahrir Square who helped topple Mubarak. "We want real democracy and this is not good for any of those people - the Islamists and the Mubarak people." The Muslim Brotherhood, which came out on top in every national vote in Egypt after Mubarak's fall, may yet be allowed to contest next year's parliamentary election via its Freedom and Justice Party, or by running candidates as individuals. But even if the Brotherhood chose to take part, its electoral dominance might be over in a reshaped political landscape, where both state and private media condemn it as a terrorist organization - and lionise the police and military. Mursi and other Brotherhood leaders are now on trial. Thousands of Islamists are behind bars as the movement endures one of the toughest crackdowns in its 85-year history. Yet liberals have failed to build popular new parties and look ill-placed to exploit the Brotherhood's plight. This could allow a comeback by the "felool", or Mubarak-era remnants. "DEEP STATE" Although Mubarak is being retried for involvement in the deaths of protesters during the 2011 uprising, liberals like Abul Ghar worry that entrenched business and security interests that were so powerful during his rule are regaining influence. Islamists, and some liberals, argue that they never really went away - Mursi, Egypt's first freely elected leader, often complained of the "deep state" embedded in the police, army and judiciary that he said obstructed his government at every turn. But Islamists and liberals, briefly united against Mubarak in Tahrir, are deeply divided again. Months of bloodshed after Mursi's fall have crippled chances for reconciliation between backers of the army takeover and Islamists who call it a coup. Many liberals applauded the military's action and those with misgivings have mostly been side-lined. The political climate has been further aggravated by Islamist militant attacks that have multiplied in the Sinai Peninsula and elsewhere since Mursi's removal on July 3. "The terrorist attacks going on make the situation more difficult," Abul Ghar said, adding that the violence made it easy for any government to take anti-democratic actions. The government makes no distinction between the Brotherhood, which formally renounced violence in the 1970s, and militants, routinely referring to all of them as "terrorists". Abul Ghar, who went to university with some Islamists who later became senior Brotherhood members, says reconciliation is not possible unless the Brotherhood turns more moderate. He bemoans the failure of liberals and leftists to take the lead during the rocky transition after Mubarak's fall, when the army first broadly cooperated with the Brotherhood and then turned against it in a shift hailed by its non-Islamist foes. "We thought we were representing the future, a better future for the country," Abul Ghar said. "It will take time." (Editing by Alistair Lyon)
- The Independent
First family orders sesame bagels with cream cheese
- Associated Press
A federal judge on Sunday blocked the release of a Tennessee man who authorities say carried flexible plastic handcuffs during the riot at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month. U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell for the District of Columbia set aside an order by a judge in Tennessee concerning the release of Eric Munchel of Nashville. After testimony at a detention hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Frensley for the Middle District of Tennessee determined Friday that Munchel wasn’t a flight risk and didn’t pose harm to the public.
- The Telegraph
The acrimonious split within Republican ranks widened over the weekend as Donald Trump made his foray back into politics, backing the re-election of a hard-line supporter as chair of the party in Arizona. His wholehearted support for Kelli Ward was seen by allies as the former president firing a warning shot across the bows of any Republican senators considering backing his impeachment. Underlining Mr Trump’s grip on the Republican grassroots, the Arizona party also voted to censure John McCain’s widow, Cindy, former senator Jeff Flake and governor Doug Ducey, who refused to back the former president’s claims of election fraud. Mr Trump’s intervention came amid reports that he is considering setting up a “Patriot Party” which would spearhead primary challenges to his opponents in the 2022 mid-term elections. The former president has already amassed a massive war chest with his Save America political action committee declaring last month that it had raked in $207.5 million in donations.
- Business Insider
Barely any time has passed since President Biden's inauguration, and Republicans have already returned to their bag of shenanigans.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced Monday he will not run for a third term in the U.S. Senate in 2022, citing "partisan gridlock."Why it matters: It's a surprise retirement from a prominent Senate Republican who easily won re-election in 2016 and was expected to do so again in 2022, creating an open Senate seat in a red-leaning swing state.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.Between the lines: Portman was one of the Republican senators who said that former President Trump "bears some responsibility" for the Jan. 6 Capitol riots. His decision not to seek re-election will free him from the political constraints of voting to convict Trump in his upcoming impeachment trial, though it's not yet clear whether he will choose to do so.What they're saying: "I don’t think any Senate office has been more successful in getting things done, but honestly, it has gotten harder and harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress on substantive policy, and that has contributed to my decision," Portman said in a statement. * “We live in an increasingly polarized country where members of both parties are being pushed further to the right and further to the left, and that means too few people who are actively looking to find common ground." * "This is not a new phenomenon, of course, but a problem that has gotten worse over the past few decades."Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
California Governor Gavin Newsom's office has decided to lift the orders as ICU availability in the regions that remained under the stay-at-home order, including the Bay area and Southern California are projected to rise above the 15% threshold that triggered the lockdown measures, according https://bit.ly/3sSPOfp to San Francisco Chronicle. California has reported over 3.1 million cases and 36,745 deaths so far, a Reuters tally showed. Strict stay-at-home orders were renewed for much of California in December to avert a crisis in hospitals.
- The Week
Senate Democrats are drawing a line at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) demand that a power-sharing agreement in the 50-50 Senate include a pledge to retain the legislative filibuster. "If we gave him that, then the filibuster would be on everything, every day," Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) told NBC's Chuck Todd on Sunday's Meet the Press. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) offered McConnell "word for word" the same power-sharing agreement used in the first half of 2001, and McConnell's insistence on adding the filibuster pledge is "a non-starter."But until Schumer and McConnell reach agreement on the Senate's operating rules, Republicans still retain much of the majority they lost last Wednesday."Without an organizing accord, Republicans remain in the majority of most Senate committees," and "veteran Democrats eager to seize the gavels and advance their long dormant agendas can only wait and wonder," The Washington Post explains. "Newly sworn-in Democratic senators cannot get committee assignments until an organizational deal is struck," leaving the old GOP-majority structures in place, and "Democrats can't unilaterally impose an organizing agreement because they would need Republican support to block a filibuster."The filibuster has evolved into a sclerotic de facto requirement for a 60-senator supermajority on all legislation. Frustration with obstruction by the minority led Senate Democrats to end the filibuster for some presidential appointees and lower-court judges in 2013, and McConnell continued eroding the filibuster as majority leader, killing it for Supreme Court nominees and further easing the confirmation of presidential appointees.A handful of Democratic centrists would prefer to keep the filibuster — for now. But there is mounting pressure from inside and outside the chamber. "There is absolutely no reason to give Sen. McConnell months and months to prove what we absolutely know — that he is going to continue his gridlock and dysfunction from the minority," said Eli Zupnick, a spokesman for the anti-filibuster liberal coalition Fix Our Senate.More stories from theweek.com Trump must be prosecuted Josh Hawley knows exactly what he's doing Moderna working on booster shot to increase protection against South African coronavirus variant
- Associated Press
Indonesian authorities said that they seized an Iranian tanker and Panamanian tanker suspected of carrying out the illegal transfer of oil in their country's waters Sunday. The tankers — the Iranian-flagged MT Horse and the Panamanian-flagged MT Frea — were seized in waters off Indonesia's West Kalimantan province, said Wisnu Pramadita, a spokesman for the Indonesian Maritime Security Agency.
- The Independent
Biden news: Experts find major ‘gaps’ in Trump pardons as White House scrambles to rollout vaccine plan
Latest developments from Washington DC and beyond
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), incoming chair of the Senate Budget Committee who caucuses with the Democrats, told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that Democrats plan to push a coronavirus relief package through the chamber with a simple majority vote. Why it matters: "Budget reconciliation" would allow Democrats to forgo the Senate's 60-vote requirement and could potentially speed-up the next relief package for millions of unemployed Americans. Democrats hold the the 50-50 split in the Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.What he's saying: "What we cannot do is wait weeks and weeks and months to go forward. We have got to act now," Sanders said. * "We're going to use reconciliation — that's 50 votes in the Senate, plus the vice president — to pass legislation desperately needed by working families in this country right now." * When asked if he wants a relief bill passed before former President Trump's impeachment trial begins the week of Feb. 8, he said: "We've got to do everything. This is not — you don't have the time to sit around, weeks on impeachment and not get vaccines into the arms of people."Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.
Drugmaker Merck & Co said on Monday it would stop development of its two COVID-19 vaccines and focus pandemic research on treatments, with initial data on an experimental oral antiviral expected by the end of March. Merck was late to join the race to develop a vaccine to protect against the coronavirus, which has so far killed more than 2 million people and continues to surge in many parts of the world including the United States. The company will record a pre-tax discontinuation charge in the fourth quarter for vaccine candidate V591, which it acquired with the purchase of Austrian vaccine maker Themis Bioscience, and V590, developed with nonprofit research organization IAVI, Merck said in a statement.
- The Telegraph
Italy’s interior minister has intervened in a row in Naples over the painting of giant murals that pay tribute to the blighted lives and violent exploits of teenage criminals. Italians have adopted a curious English phrase, “baby bosses”, to describe the young gangsters, who frequently lose their lives in confrontations with police on the streets of the southern city. Such “bosses” are said to be members of “baby gangs” – another curious Italo-English invention that denotes groups of delinquents and drifters. Authorities in Naples want to scrub out or paint over two large murals which adorn the sides of buildings. They depict two young men, Ugo Russo and Luigi Caiafa, who were shot dead in separate incidents last year by police officers during robbery attempts. A mural dedicated to Russo depicts his face and the words Verità e Giustizia – Truth and Justice. He was killed when he tried to rob an off-duty police officer last year.
- Associated Press
A 34-year-old grizzly bear captured in southwestern Wyoming has been confirmed as the oldest on record in the Yellowstone region, Wyoming wildlife officials said. Grizzly bear 168 was captured last summer after it preyed on calves in the Upper Green River Basin area. Biologists learned of the bear’s longevity after euthanizing the bruin, which had preyed on cattle and then finally, calves.
- The Week
President Biden is enjoying a honeymoon period, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll released Sunday suggests.Just a few days after assuming office, Biden has received high marks for his response to the coronavirus pandemic and his handling of the presidential transition. More than half of those polled also think he has a chance to unify the country, although only 22 percent have a "great deal" of confidence he'll be able to pull off that feat.Per the poll, Republicans don't seem pleased with some of the executive orders Biden has issued so far, including his reversal of a travel ban on several Muslim-majority nations and the termination of the national emergency declaration at the southern border, but GOP voters are, relatively speaking, somewhat amenable to his coronavirus response. The poll shows 40 percent of Republicans approve of Biden's pandemic leadership. For context, former President Donald Trump's highest approval rating (in regards to his COVID-19 response) among Democrats in the same poll was 30 percent, and that was all the way back in mid-March of 2020.> The more than two-thirds of Americans who approve of Pres. Biden's leadership on the coronavirus includes 40% of Republicans -- a notably high level of support from across the aisle a year into the pandemic. https://t.co/Foyzv1E8Ji> > — Evan McMurry (@evanmcmurry) January 24, 2021The friendly numbers may give Biden some breathing room, ABC News notes, but early tenure bliss generally doesn't last forever.The ABC News/Ipsos poll was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs' KnowledgePanel between Jan. 22 to 23, 2021 among a random national sample of 504 adults. The margin of error is 5 percentage points. Read more at ABC News.More stories from theweek.com Trump must be prosecuted Josh Hawley knows exactly what he's doing Moderna working on booster shot to increase protection against South African coronavirus variant
The will-he-or-won't-he speculation surrounding a possible gubernatorial run by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell is destined to continue at least a bit longer.What he's saying: Lindell told Axios that his focus is currently on proving his (baseless) claims of election fraud. He won't make a decision until that fight is resolved.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here. * "Why would anybody want to run if they had the same machines with the election fraud?" Lindell said Friday. * "It will all get out there, and when it does, we'll see what elections are going to have to be done with paper ballots and no machines. Otherwise, it doesn't make sense to put in everybody's resources and time."Between the lines: While he's leaving the door open, Lindell's comments create a path for bowing out.Why it matters: If Lindell runs, name recognition and his ties to Trump could give him an edge among GOP voters. * Many top Republican officials and consultants think having the unpredictable pillow salesman at the top of the ticket would spell disaster for their efforts to win statewide in 2022.How we got here: Lindell has been flirting with a bid for months, but his commitment to promoting conspiracy theories about the 2020 election — including a much-covered White House visit — has triggered legal backlash and trouble for his business. * Last fall, Lindell said he'd run if Trump won another term. Then, in early January, he told the Star Tribune he was "90-95%" sure he'd jump in and would decide "once we know Donald Trump is our president."Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
Tacoma Police spokeswoman Wendy Haddow said police were alerted to the street racers and a 100-person crowd blocking area streets, according to the News Tribune. When the patrol car responded, the crowd began pounding on the vehicle's windows, she told local media. “He was afraid they would break his glass,” Haddow told the News Tribune, saying the officer sped away from the scene for his own safety.
- Yahoo News Video
Sarah Sanders, Donald Trump's former chief spokeswoman and one of his closest aides, announced Monday she's running for Arkansas governor, vying for political office even as the former president's legacy is clouded by an impeachment charge that he incited the deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol.
- Associated Press
President Joe Biden has brought back Dr. Kevin O'Connor as his physician, replacing President Donald Trump's doctor with the one who oversaw his care when he was vice president. The White House confirmed that Dr. Sean Conley, the Navy commander who served as the head of the White House Medical Unit under Trump and oversaw his treatment when he was hospitalized with COVID-19, will assume a teaching role at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. O'Connor, a retired Army colonel, was Biden's doctor during his entire tenure as vice president, having remained in the role at Biden's request.
Former U.S. Rep. David Jolly is "strongly considering" a run for Florida governor in 2022 as an independent, a source close to him tells Axios.Why it matters: Jolly, who repped Florida's 13th district as a Republican from 2014 to 2017 and publicly left the GOP in 2018, has built a brand on cable news as a critic of former President Trump and his allies in Congress.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.The state of play: Since the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, an unusual number of Republicans in the three biggest Tampa Bay-area counties have switched parties, the Tampa Bay Times reports. * Election supervisors say 2,025 Republicans switched parties in the eight days after Jan. 6 — mostly dropping their party affiliation— compared to just 306 Democrats, even though Ds outnumber Rs in those counties. * The number switching is far higher than in the same period following the 2016 presidential election, per the Times.The big picture: Jolly has also been using his influence to attract Republicans who have left the GOP to a new party he's chairing — the Serve America Movement, or SAM. * He calls SAM, born in 2017, a "big tent party" and also hopes to woo defected Democrats and independents. * He tells Axios it's working: "The new party conversation has just increased dramatically since January 6," Jolly said.The lingering question: Are there enough anti-Trump Republicans to make room for a new party, or will most stay put and hope the GOP eases back from the radical fringe? * Jolly's answer: The GOP is "a party of Matt Gaetz and Jim Jordan and the QAnon woman from Georgia now," he told us. "The greater that disruption, the greater the chance for a third party to emerge."Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.
China has found harmless traces of the novel coronavirus in some COVID-19 inoculation sites potentially linked to vaccine liquid, its disease control centre said. Samples taken from tables, walls, doorknobs and hallways of the sites tested positive for the virus but were not infectious, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) said in a statement late on Sunday. The traces had identical genome sequences as the strain found in used vaccine vials but were different from the strains currently spreading, China CDC said.